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Faces In Shadow

Chapter Text

All of this had come as a huge shock to the people, no one knew for sure why it had happened but everyone across the globe knew what had happened. It had started in Europe and within three years had spread across the world. No one was safe from this global shake up. A few isolated places had managed to hold out for longer but four years since the night the sky burned and the world was a very different place for everyone. Life as it had once been known simply ceased to exist.

Sweeping through populations like a virus, growing and evolving as the global population continued to succumb to the changes, the unexplained alterations blossomed into a completely new distribution of power. Once proud countries and states were reduced to warring tribes again and they rebuilt, carving out new empires where once organised civilisations had thrived. Great monuments of the world were abandoned and new, even more magnificent monuments were built, honouring the transition that had swept up billions of people and turned their lives inside out.

The balance of power shifted completely, men falling from their lofty positions all over the world and being replaced by a completely female leadership at every level of this re-developing civilisation. The old borders were redrawn again, marking out family territories and setting up neutral areas where the territory wars weren't welcome.

These neutral areas were to become some of the most important places on the planet now that the new civilisation was settled and the wars were less of a concern. In these neutral zones, large open air markets were constructed, allowing visitors to purchase anything from exotic foods to the newest slaves on the open market.

And there was the revealed brutality of this new civilisation. While women thrived and raced up the ladders of power all over the world, men were considered as another form of livestock, bought and sold without a second thought. They weren't valued as people anymore, their worth was decided by their strength and various skills they might have. Prices went down if they were skilled in certain areas like flight or if they had previously served in the military. The highest priced men were normally those that were highly skilled in the arts.

The men of the world tried their best to behave, thoughts of rebellion and disobedience never lasting long in their addled minds. They worked hard to please, desperate to stay with their Mistresses and avoid the dangers of this new world without the protection of a strong woman. Those that misbehaved were sent to penal colonies across the globe, abandoned by the women they felt so driven to serve.

The penal colonies were talked about in hushed whispers by the men; every man feared being sent there. Set up in the most inhospitable places on the planet, the days were hard and the nights even worse. Some colonies were mining camps as well, the slaves sent there worked until they fell and were only given the bare minimum to keep them alive. Life expectancies were counted in weeks in some places. It was possible to get out of the penal colonies but it was very rare for anyone there to be selected by a Mistress via the constant video feeds all over the penal colonies.

The men were all aware of their precarious positions in this new society; they all had stories of friends they'd lost to the whims of the women. One mistake could result in their death if their Mistress wasn't in a forgiving mood. In some situations, a Mistress would have several of her slaves executed at once to make a point to those that she still had left. Some men had stories of being forced to kill a friend quickly or face a slow, agonising death.

Some men were lucky, treated more like pets and given the finest things that any man could have. In comparison to the beautiful clothes and sparkling jewellery the women wore, these pet men wore simple clothes and little jewellery but they still had more than the average slave. Most men only had simple, rough hewn pants and a matching shirt if they were lucky.

Every woman had her own way of showing which slaves were hers. Some branded their slaves like cattle; others used various styles of shackles to identify their property. Collars were a popular choice and thousands of different styles appeared, every woman registering her own identification system so any slaves that escaped would be recognised and returned to her.

There was only one way for a woman to improve her social standing now that marrying for money and hard work were out of the picture. Now a woman's power was judged on the number and quality of slaves that she kept. A woman with ten slaves in excellent physical condition was more important than a woman with 100 poorly kept slaves. The most powerful women on the planet had thousands of men at her beck and call and could pick their breeders at will to continue the traditions of this new world.

Chapter Text

Settled back in her rickshaw, Gena Newman scanned the slave market slowly, hoping to find a few new faces to add to her collection of males. She had 62 so far, all strapping men with strong bodies and varied skills. Most of hers were the sort other women didn't want but her males were perfect for her compound. She was well known in the area for picking dregs and turning them into powerful men that were eager to follow her every order and whim.

Winding among the other rickshaws milling through the market, Jean-Claude held his head up and guided Gena's rickshaw through carefully. Keeping to a steady jog, he called out to those that came too close, warning the other rickshaws to make room for Mistress Gena. Everyone around these parts respected her; they knew who she was and just how important she was to the peace of their area so they cleared her path.

Running beside the rickshaw, ready to swing out and fetch whatever she desired, young Buck Riley listened for her directions and scanned the area slowly, looking for the things that he knew his Mistress liked. Lacking the physical presence of Jean-Claude, Buck relied on his smaller stature and greater speed to fetch whatever his Mistress demanded he retrieve.

Given the place of honour at her feet, her treasured pet rested quietly, waiting for instructions but he knew she preferred to keep him close by. He knew he was the favourite, he remembered times before the night sky had burned when he'd been her loving husband. Now he was perfectly happy to sit by her feet and accept whatever contact she gave him. He was too old to be worth much to anyone else but to Mistress Gena, he was priceless.

Glancing at her slaves on display, Gena smiled faintly. She knew they looked good in her chosen slave uniform of tight sky blue shorts, simple black leather sandals and heavy black leather chest harnesses with gold buckles and rivets. In the middle of each harness they wore a gold ring bearing her name so no one could mistake her ownership. Completing the look they wore matching black leather collars with golden D-rings, buckles and rivets and sky blue borders.

Sipping her fine wine and relaxing, she scanned the crowds and waved to her friends as Jean-Claude headed for the outdoor slave market. Gena wasn't looking for any of the fancy slaves that could sing and dance for her pleasure; she wanted the rugged men that were kept outside on the rails awaiting their fate. She was looking for specific men though she never said as much.

~#~#~#~#~

The rails were great long rows of raised metal bars; each aisle set for a different height bracket so any prospective buyer could see exactly was on offer. The men were chained with their hands behind their backs, forced to kneel in the hot sun and hope a woman saw something in him that was worth spending money to get. On the floor in front of each one was propped a small sign, giving a quick history of the individual slaves and listing any transgressions they might have made.

Panting quietly as he knelt among dozens of other men in his sales bracket, Shane Schofield knew he was going to have to be extremely lucky to be sold. Not only did he have a military background, but he was marked as an escapee. After the night the sky burned, Shane had run from his home and had managed to survive two years as a free man before hunger had driven him too close to civilisation again and he'd been caught.

He would forever be known as an escapee now; there was no getting away from it anymore. Right there on his right side, impossible to hide unless he was given a shirt to wear, he'd been branded with a big E to go with the M on the other side. He'd gotten the M just before he'd managed to escape but now there could be no hiding his military background either.

Hanging his head, Shane fought down the waves of helplessness washing over him. If he was lucky, some woman would take him on as a labourer or something like that, he wasn't worth anything really. All he could really hope for was that his friends had escaped again and were out there somewhere, safe from all of this.

Flinching when someone stepped up beside him, Shane grunted as they grabbed his hair and yanked his head back. Eyes closed, he had no idea what was going on when he heard another person approach and a calloused hand touched his face.
'I will take this one.'
'Are you certain, Mistress Gena? He is branded M and E.'
'Do not question my decisions Melanie. I will take this one.' Mistress Gena insisted, the hand falling from Shane's face.
'Very well.'

Sagging forward once his wrists were free, Shane pressed his face to the boards under him and offered profuse thanks to his new Mistress. He didn't dare look at her but he was mentally praying for a miracle. Maybe, just maybe, he was safe now and wouldn't have to run again. Hauled to his feet, he was held steady as a thick collar was buckled around his neck firmly before something clicked just below his right ear.
'You are mine now Shane.' Mistress Gena warned, clipping a chain to his new collar. 'I will not stand for escapees, try it and I will have you hung.'
'I have no reason to run from you, Mother.' Shane whispered, fully expecting to be struck for his daring but he had to let her know he remembered.

The blow was solid, her knuckles slamming into his right cheek and dropping him to the dirt heavily. Scrambling back to his knees, Shane begged forgiveness as he pressed his face into the dirt but he knew he'd gotten the message through.
'Buck, get this one ready and secured to the rickshaw, I have things to do.' Mistress Gena directed, handing over the leash.
'As you wish, Mistress.' Buck replied, tugging on the chain and getting Shane moving.
'There's more Buck…I saw Aloysius earlier, he's here.' Shane hissed, hoping he was overheard but he didn't want to be struck again.
'She heard you.' Buck nodded, guiding Shane around to the rear of the rickshaw and handing him a pair of clean blue shorts. 'Get changed; just leave those rags on the ground.'

Releasing the scanty rope belt holding his rags up, Shane let them fall and pulled on the crisp shorts, arranging his package to fit comfortably in the tight pants. Staring at the ground, he felt the heavy leather being wrapped around his chest and struggled to stay calm as it as pulled firm and buckled into position.
'Around here, the Mistress will want you close for now.' Buck guided, tugging on Shane's leash again and leading him around to the left side of the rickshaw.

Taking a seat just inside the rickshaw, Shane was silent and withdrawn as Buck opened a small hatch and revealed a set of manacles attached to the frame of the rickshaw. Fastening the heavy steel around Shane's wrists, Buck stepped back and returned to his position as Gena climbed into the rickshaw and settled, glancing down to where Shane was sitting quietly.
'Jean-Claude, head for aisle 15.' Gena directed, settling back comfortably.
'As you wish, Mistress.' Jean-Claude replied, calling for space and getting on the move again.
'Come closer, Shane.' Gena continued, a bored expression on her face as Shane inched closer to her, the chains securing him rattling softly as he moved.
'Yes, Mistress.' Shane uttered, not sure how to deal with this woman he'd known before she'd changed so much.

Watching him as he moved closer, Gena frowned as she saw a side of an old friend she'd never imagined. He was no longer the proud leader she'd followed and tried to protect; now he was a shadow of a man that had been pushed to the brink. Even in the garb of her slaves, he still shook slightly, keeping his face turned away from everyone else. Wherever he'd been for the last couple of years, it had affected him severely.
'Soon we can talk, Shane.' she uttered, fingers carding through his overgrown hair lightly.

~#~#~#~#~

Startling everyone when he was released, he slipped away from the women and bolted through the market, weaving among the rickshaws and dodging the guards all over the place. Strangely though, he didn't run for the nearest chance at escape, he ran straight towards the high security area. He knew there would be no escape now but he cared little for escaping while his best friend was still imprisoned and awaiting sale.

Breaking into a full sprint, he charged through the high security area, crying out as the guards started closing in and lashing out with their whips in an attempt to bring him to the ground. Gritting his teeth against the pain, he kept going until he got to the very middle of the high security area and scrambled onto the platform in the middle of an open area.

Continuing up past other high risk slaves, he got to the third level of five and stopped beside one of the slaves strung up where he couldn't cause trouble. Dropping to his knees, he gasped for breath as he slumped against the man he'd risked everything to return to one more time. Severely weakened by malnutrition, dehydration and the floggings he'd taken from the guards since his recapture, he curled both hands around the ankle of his friend, looking up at him desperately.

Shifting in his chains, the taller of the pair looked down at his crumpled friend sadly, wishing he could offer him some comfort in this situation. But chained as he was, spreadeagled and on complete display for anyone, all he could offer was the reassuring contact between friends as his escaped companion pressed closer to his leg and tried to hide from the guards.

Flinching away from the guards as they approached, the pair were forcibly parted again, the shorter dragged back off the high risk pyramid as the taller was removed from the full body chains and shoved towards one of the cages where his friend would never be able to get close to him.
'Stop! Let me see that one!' a familiar voice echoed through the high security area, bringing the guards to a halt.

Shoved across the baking hot ground, he was backed up to a heavy wooden post, the guards shackling his hands over his head as he was forced to his knees. Lifting his head a little when his shorter friend was shackled beside him, he leant over and brushed up against him lightly, trying to rebuild his shattered confidence. Responding to the touch, his friend came up on his knees a little, eyes closed as he returned the light contact, reaffirming what they'd always known.

Not caring about who might have been watching, the pair pressed as close as they could get, whispering soft words of comfort and reassuring each other that nothing would tear them apart. It was a huge risk to show that they cared about each other so much but they couldn't bear the enforced separation any longer.

Crying out as they were forced apart, the pair tried to endure the touch of an unfamiliar hand but it scared them both. At any minute they could be torn apart again and forced to live their pitiful lives without the one that made life worthwhile. Their places in society were so perilous; they both bore multiple brands of various meanings all over their weakened bodies.
'This one is nothing but trouble, Mistress Gena. Look at his brands - M E P.'
'I care little for such details. I have no aircraft at my compound and with kill collars; they will not dare to flee. I only need to put a kill collar on one, it is clear they are something special to each other.' that voice was so familiar but neither man could quite place it.
'We have already established just how special. View the small one.'

Fighting so hard to keep what was left of his dignity and self respect; the smaller of the pair was dragged around and slammed face first into the post he was bound against. Pinned there firmly by three strong women, he tried kicking out at them but it was all in vain. With one pull, the remnants of his black shorts were pulled away to reveal the shameful brand on his ass.

Released again, he crumpled against the post, hot tears of shame glistening on his face as he was kicked around to slam his back against the post. Hanging his head, he knew his chances of ever being taken away from the brutality were gone; no woman wanted a slave that had more interest in slaves than pleasing her.
'I will take them both. It is clear that they need a firm hand to control them.' Mistress Gena decided, slaves scurrying to do her bidding.

Someone was there in front of them, light hands guiding the short one to lift his head a little. Shaking in fear, he kept his eyes closed as something was slipped across his face, the chilled plastic of great comfort to him. Slowly, he opened his eyes and looked at the slave crouched in front of him, feeling a little more comfortable now that his glasses had been returned to him.
'you are safe now, Mistress Gena knows all.' the slave whispered before standing and darting away.

Released from the burning shackles and hauled to their feet, the pair accepted their new collars and sagged a little, relieved to be still together when it could have been so easy for them to be torn apart. Feeling new shackles around their wrists, they were marched away to a waiting rickshaw by another slave.

Chained to the rear of the rickshaw by their new collars, they accepted their new shorts and dressed quickly, hiding away the humiliating brands on their asses that marked them as gay.
'You're safe now, both of you.' another familiar voice soothed, strong hands slipping a heavy chest harness onto the smaller of the pair.
'Hurry up Buck, I have seen enough.' Mistress Gena called; the rickshaw moving as she climbed inside. 'Bring them around to the right when you're done.'
'Of course, Mistress.' Buck replied, buckling the second harness into place and leading the pair around to the right side.

His shaking getting even worse as he was guided into the rickshaw, the smaller of the pair sat beside their Mistress and tried not to flinch as his wrists were bound to the floor. Glancing to the side, he watched his companion as he sat in the open door, tucked his feet up and accepted the shackles to keep him in position on the running board.
'Home, Jean-Claude!' Mistress Gena ordered, cracking the leather reins that ran up to his chest harness. 'Fast as you can.'
'As ordered, Mistress.' Jean-Claude replied, whistling and calling for space as he heaved against the added weight and started moving through the crowds. 'Make way for Mistress Gena! Make way for Mistress Gena!'

Chapter Text

Running through the heavy steel gates that led into the Newman Compound, Jean-Claude headed straight for the main entrance to deposit their Mistress safely home. He was so used to being her main rickshaw man; he didn't even need to think about it anymore, he knew what was expected of him. But this time she tugged on the reins, guiding him towards the slave buildings around the back. Crossing his feet and changing direction, he breathed easier as the pressure from his harness released and kept going, not sure he fully understood what his Mistress wanted of him.

Slowing as he came around the main house, he came to a stop just outside the slave buildings and waited, panting heavily after the two hour run from the markets to the Compound. He was in peak physical condition and usually the run didn't leave him winded but with the added weight of the other slaves she'd purchased, he'd struggled.

Releasing the three new slaves, Buck put them on their knees outside the house slave building, hooked their leashes to a hook imbedded in the wall and stood ready for orders as the rest of the house slaves flooded out to take her purchases inside and welcome their Mistress home.
'Buck, take those three inside and get them cleaned up. I will see them in my private study in one hour.' Mistress Gena directed, climbing out of the rickshaw. 'Once Jean-Claude has put the rickshaw away, he can assist you.'
'As you wish, Mistress.' Jean-Claude and Buck replied in unison, both bowing their heads respectfully as they turned to their separate duties.

Unhooking the three leashes, Buck returned them to his Mistress before ushering the trio inside, always careful not to push them until he knew more about their mental states. They'd all changed so much since the last time he'd seen them. He could only hope that with time and a gentle hand, they would be okay and come back to the family that had missed them so much.

The house slave building was simple and very Spartan inside with bare brick walls and five rooms each designed to sleep three. There were two bathrooms for the fifteen house slaves to share but at least they were designed with three large tubs and four toilets in each so it wasn't a complete squeeze. It was still tricky to get everyone cleaned and ready for another day but they made it work.

Deciding that showing them their sleeping quarters would only make the situation worse, Buck led them towards the bathroom nearest their sleeping quarters and ushered them inside. Still shaking badly and refusing to look at anything but the floor, the trio allowed Buck to guide them past other slaves until they were standing near the tubs.
'I know you're all feeling especially vulnerable at the moment but it will get better soon. Right now, the only thing you need to think about is getting cleaned up for Mistress Gena.' Buck coaxed, figuring that the easiest way to get this done would simply be to get them to follow his lead.
'Buck…' Shane uttered, slowly lifting his gaze and looking at his old friend.
'I'm here, Shane. It's okay, you're safe now.' Buck soothed, reaching out to lightly rest on hand on Shane's shoulder.

Choking on his emotions Shane stepped forward and collapsed into Buck's arms, the stress of his life on the run and the pain of his capture and imprisonment overwhelmed by the relief at being back with people he knew he could trust. Sure, Mother still had the ultimate power over him but Shane had a feeling that she would never allow anyone to hurt him anymore.
'Come on, you'll feel better after a wash and a chance to eat something. I can't imagine what you've been through but you don't ever have to worry about that again. You're safe here; you'll never be sold on now that you're back where you belong.' Buck soothed, holding tight and letting Shane cry on his shoulder. 'That goes for you two as well, you're safe here. You're not the only ones here to have that particular hidden brand.'
'How do you know that?' Aloysius asked, huddled in against Rufus' side for safety.
'Because I've got it.' Buck admitted, looking up at them. 'I was discovered eighteen months ago. I was the lucky one, they killed the slave I was with and I was put on the block again. Mistress Gena saved me and brought me here where I would be safe.'
'And she doesn't mind?' Rufus asked, wrapping his arms around Aloysius and holding him close.
'So long as she doesn't see anything, Mistress Gena doesn't enforce the no-sex among slaves rule.' Buck nodded, guiding Shane towards the bench along the wall. 'But if we're tardy, she will unleash hell on all of us.'
'We don't want that.' Shane uttered, drawing back slowly and looking up at Buck with a faint smile.
'No, I'd rather avoid a beating.' Buck agreed, stepping back and glancing around at his friends slowly. 'As house slaves, the most important thing you need to remember is to always make sure you're clean and neatly groomed. You only have one uniform so take exceptional care of it. Around here, you can't afford to be body shy, it's quiet in here for now but come tomorrow morning, things will be very busy.'

Knowing that he had the full attention of his friends, Buck released the lower two buckles on his harness and lifted it off, hanging it neatly on the hooks arranged along the wall behind them. Swapping timid looks but trusting in him, his friends followed his example, hanging up their harnesses and trying not to draw attention to the various brands they all had now.

Remembering how timid he'd been his first day at the Newman Compound, Buck slipped off his shorts and hung them with his harness before quickly retreating into the nearest tub. Looking around again, his friends were nervous as hell but they followed his example, stripping off and stepping into the deep, sunken tub.
'So long as you remember to keep your collars dry, there shouldn't be any real problems. Only Mistress Gena has the keys to unlock our collars so be careful. There are fifteen house slaves in total, including you three so every morning is hectic as everyone tries to bathe and be ready for another day. As much as possible, I'll keep an eye on you three and make sure everything runs smoothly until you're settled into the routine.' Buck continued, grabbing a bar of soap and beckoning Shane closer.
'Ralph is something special, isn't he?' Shane asked, turning his burned and bruised back to his old friend and trying to relax. 'I noticed he was treated differently.'
'Mistress Gena treats him more as a pet than a house slave. I guess she still cares for him like she did before the night the sky burned. He still has to work but he mostly gets to lounge around by her feet and keep her company.' Buck nodded, gently working the soap over Shane's back.
'So how many slaves are there here?' Aloysius asked, hissing in pain as Rufus gently scrubbed his back and washed away the dried blood.
'65 in total now but you'll only deal with the house slaves. The land slaves live in a separate building and are forbidden from coming in here just as we're forbidden to enter their building. For the most, the house slaves are nice people but that might change as you get to know your duties. It just depends on where the Mistress places you.' Buck replied, handing Shane a second bar of soap and continuing to pick at his back. 'I'll get you some soothing balm for this as soon as we're all cleaned up, it looks really bad Shane.'

Heads snapping up at the sound of footsteps coming closer, Aloysius darted back in against Rufus' side, clinging desperately to his best friend. Rufus returned the hold, wrapping around Aloysius and holding him tight. Shane was just as jumpy, scooting in against Buck and trembling in fear.
'That you, Jean-Claude!' Buck called, stroking Shane's hair lightly.
'Oui, is everything all right Buck?' Jean-Claude replied, appearing at the far end of the tub room.
'Is that really you, Baba?' Shane asked, lifting his face from Buck's shoulder.
'Shhh, watch what you say Shane. Fuck, if anyone else heard you say that we'd all get flogged.' Buck hissed, eyes blowing wide in fright. 'Real names only.'
'You are lucky everyone else is busy in the house, you could have gotten us into much trouble, Shane.' Jean-Claude added, lifting down a large white box from the shelf at the far end of the room and coming towards the occupied tub.
'I didn't know that.' Shane uttered, allowing Buck to guide him around and go back to rubbing his back clean.
'Now you do, try not to forget.' Buck nodded, looking up at Jean-Claude. 'We're going to need the soothing balms; Shane's got a bad case of sunburn back here.'
'I saw it earlier.' Jean-Claude replied, setting the box beside the tub and moving to hang up his uniform beside the others.

Sweeping Aloysius into his lap and turning away as Jean-Claude stepped into the tub with them, Rufus shot a warning look at the big man, making it clear that Aloysius was off limits to anyone else. Protecting Aloysius behind his broad back, Rufus held him tight and whispered calming words of support as Aloysius whimpered softly, still deeply troubled by everything he'd gone through since the night the sky burned.
'I know what it is to suffer, perhaps not to the same extent but I have not always been the healthy rickshaw runner you see here. Two years ago, I was put in a cage and shipped around the globe from my home in the hills of France to this compound. For three weeks I was kept on my knees in a cage, held with a three point chaining method.' Jean-Claude offered, taking a seat in the middle of the tub and washing off the road grime.
'For two years we were free men, running from the slavers and trying to stay alive and safe. But hunger drove us too close to the city, we were charged with bringing back food to a free colony out there and we failed. For the last six weeks, we were held at the slave market, given daily floggings and branded to make it clear that we were escapees.' Rufus replied, turning a little but he still clutched Aloysius to his chest.

Grabbing a bar of soap from the edge of the tub, Jean-Claude eased closer to the pair and slowly reached out to curl his fingers around Aloysius' right leg, drawing it out of the water and starting to wash away the dirt and blood.
'The escapee brand wasn't so bad, no worse than the M on the other side. But once it came out that we were gay…it's almost as if the slavers were purposefully trying to destroy any self respect or dignity we might have had.' Aloysius uttered, lifting his head slowly. 'Never have I endured something so humiliating.'
'Look at it this way; at least you still have your full manhood. When it was decided that I would be sent to America to serve Mistress Gena, my previous Mistress thought it wise to remove any troubles that could have arisen because of things I had said before the night the sky burned.' Jean-Claude offered, turning his face away in shame. 'When I awoke strapped down to a bed, I did not know why I was in such pain. One of the other slaves in the room welcomed me to the castration ward…I was so humiliated that I had been robbed of any chance to service a Mistress again.'

Still holding Aloysius close, Rufus reached out and rested one hand on Jean-Claude's shoulder, offering what little comfort he could to a man that had lost the only legacy a slave had, even if it was a blind legacy. If a Mistress desired offspring, she could choose any slave to father the child. Male children were never told who their parents were and female children only knew their mothers. To lose that one small hope for the future was a truly cruel blow.

~#~#~#~#~

Cleaned up, injuries treated and soothing balms applied to their sunburns, the trio certainly looked better but the haircuts and a chance to shave really made a difference. Suddenly they went from obviously fresh from the markets to looking like they'd been part of the household for a while. There was still one detail that marked the three as new arrivals but their Mistress would soon fix that, she was the only one with the right to handle that part of thew transformation.

Leaving the trio standing in the main corridor, Buck and Jean-Claude headed for their rooms and quickly returned, wearing the last of their slave uniforms. Around their wrists and ankles, they wore cuffs to match their collars, each one shining with care and engraved with the name of their Mistress. The ankles ones each had three D-rings attached while the wrist cuffs only had two each, one on either side.
'Mistress Gena insists we don't wear our cuffs in public, leather cuffs are seen as the soft option. In public, she has me in steel cuffs, locked to the rickshaw but Buck is allowed to run without any because he must be free to fetch and carry whatever she demands.' Jean-Claude explained, adjusting the way his wrist cuffs were sitting.
'It's doubtful she'll have any of you measured for steel, unless you really screw things up and step out of line. It just depends on what she has planned for each of you.' Buck added, leading the group down the corridor again.
'I noticed you both wear shoes. How do we earn them?' Rufus asked, limping a little as he followed Buck along the rough hewn boards on the floor.
'Depends on the mood of our Mistress. I earned mine simply by behaving for a week but Jean-Claude had to make six runs to the market bare foot before he got his.' Buck shrugged, glancing back over his shoulder. 'Given you have injuries to your feet, she may give you house socks to wear to protect her floors from bloodstains but you'll just have to wait and see.'

Approaching a simple wooden door about half way along the hallway, Buck swung it open and led his friends along a narrow passageway that was dimly lit but not dark enough to risk running into anything. At the other end of the passageway, he opened a second door and stepped into a small anteroom where four slaves were sitting around.
'So these are the new arrivals.' one remarked, looking up at the trio with clear disdain in his green eyes. 'And escapees at that.'
'Shut it Lucas before I report you to the Mistress for mocking her decisions.' Buck growled, glaring down at the scrawny rat of a man. 'You know the only reason she keeps you is because you're fast enough to bring the mail lockboxes in under ten minutes. You might be losing that position soon.'
'What are their names?' a solidly built man asked, looking up from where he was sewing up a spare pair of uniform shorts.
'This is Shane, Aloysius and that's Rufus in the back.' Buck replied, indicating his friends. 'Who tore their pants this time Robbie?'
'Jake did, he was bending to retrieve Duke's ball and they went. Mistress Gena told him to go up a size so she didn't have to soil her eyes with his bare ass again.' Robbie replied, glancing towards a heavyset man sitting in the back corner.
'It's not my fault, Robbie. I was a labourer before Mistress Gena purchased me from the markets; I'm not used to working so little.' Jake groused, scratching under his harness lightly.
'Good luck out there, Mistress Gena is in a bad mood. Thomas dropped the new wine glasses the Mistress purchased today. He's out on the north frame now, he's been given 24 hours out there as punishment.' the fourth man in the room warned, looking up at Buck to revealing a nasty bruise on his face. 'She beat me for not taking the glasses from him as soon as I realised.'
'It's okay Andrew, I've got a feeling she'll be in a better mood soon. Just keep your head down and stay out of her sight for a few hours.' Buck replied, giving the older man a grin. 'I'll explain the hierarchy later.'
'Whatever you think is best, Buck.' Shane nodded, glancing around the room.
'Come on, we mustn't be late.' Buck grinned, leading the group out of the small room.

Making his way along tastefully decorated hallways and through breathtaking rooms full of fine artworks and magnificent furniture. Up the back staircase to the second floor, footsteps silenced by lush carpeting, he guided them to a pair of heavy wooden doors covered in ornate decorations. Knocking softly, he eased the door open and sunk to his knees, bowing low to their Mistress.
'As you requested, Mistress, your new slaves are ready to be presented.' Buck offered, trusting in Jean-Claude to handle the group outside.
'Very good, Buck.' she replied, still sounding a little angry but Buck knew he had just what would make her happy. 'Bring them before me then.'

Entering the room quietly, the trio followed Buck across the room to kneel before their Mistress as she relaxed in the sun pouring into her study. Bringing up the rear, Jean-Claude went to his knees just inside the room, closing the door silently as he went down and waited for instructions. Catching the faint tapping of her fingers against the arm of her chair, Jean-Claude stood and came across to join the group in front of her.

Leaning forward a little, Mistress Gena examined her three new slaves as they knelt there in her presence, faces to the floor but their backs were straight. Buck and Jean-Claude had done admirably to prepare the trio for their first proper viewing by their Mistress. These three would fit in with her staff, it would take time for them to settle and learn all they would need to know but she was confident that they would become some of her best.

Getting to his feet when he was signalled, Ralph padded over to a heavy wooden chest and opened it, glancing back at the three new slaves before lifting out three neatly tied bundles and returning to his padded mat beside their Mistress. Settling comfortably, he sorted the bundles and pushed them across the floor to the waiting trio, making sure to get the sizing right so there could be no mistakes about anything.
'In these bundles you will find the last of your uniforms. Hurry up and get dressed.' Mistress Gena directed, absently stroking Ralph's back as she watched the trio scramble to obey. 'You two give them a hand and make sure everything is perfect.'

Opening the bundles and getting straight to the task at hand, the three new arrivals looked to the old hands to know exactly what had to be done. Never once letting their asses touch the floor, they shifted to secure their ankle cuffs, resting on one ankle at a time to fasten the shining black leather into position properly. Glancing around, they shuffled the cuffs around to position the three D-rings to match up, setting them so one ring sat on each side of their ankles and the third rested at the back. It wasn't comfortable to kneel on the rear facing D-rings but comfort was a minor concern.

At the same time, they fitted the black sandals, protecting their feet from any more abuse and hopefully avoiding any more blood on the floors. They weren't anything particularly fancy, just thick rubber soles held on with six straps and buckles. Smoothing the leather into place and buckling them on firmly, the new arrivals settled on their knees again, heads down but they were looking more like they belonged now.

Fitting the wrist cuffs and positioning them as was proper, the trio settled again, hands resting on their thighs as they waited for whatever else their Mistress would demand of them. For now she was silent, watching her slaves and thinking about matters more important than them.
'For today, I want you three to eat and rest, you will need your strength for tomorrow and beyond. Until you prove you can be trusted, you three will be restricted to the buildings. Misbehave and I will have you put on the frames outside in punishment.' she warned, shifting in her seat. 'Jean-Claude, take them to the window so they can see the north frame.'
'Of course, Mistress.' Jean-Claude replied, tapping Rufus lightly and getting to his feet.

Gathering at the window, the trio peered outside and saw the heavy metal frame standing in the middle of an open patch of lawn. Spreadeagled on the frame, completely unprotected from the elements, one of their fellow house slaves hung limply, his body suspended from the wrist and ankle cuffs he wore. Another chain ran from his collar up to the top of the frame, keeping him from even the slightest movement.
'That's Thomas.' Jean-Claude uttered, allowing his friends to look at the bound man for a few moments before sending them back to their Mistress.
'Follow your instructions and you will be rewarded for your service. For now at least, I will keep you three close to hand so I can evaluate your abilities. Tomorrow we will see if you have the brains to serve at my table and you will go from there.' she continued, the warning clear even though she hadn't said it directly.

Getting to her feet, she came closer to her slaves, watching the way they recoiled from her to avoid any chance of making contact with their Mistress. They were learning quickly, her three new acquisitions already knew what was expected but they still had a long way to go.
'Show me that you are worth the money I spent and you will live comfortable lives for house slaves. You will be rewarded appropriately for good behaviour and punished heavily for any step out of line. Do you understand?'
'I understand, Mistress.' they replied, bowing forward again.
'Good, very good.' she praised, looking at the trio huddled by her feet and deciding who she would handle first.

Physical contact between a Mistress and her slaves was a powerful tool, establishing dominance and making sure they knew their Mistress. Ever since the night the sky burned, men had become so reliant on touch to make sure they knew their place in the world. A new slave could be effectively evaluated with just a touch, the quicker he responded positively; the longer it had been since he'd last been granted contact from a Mistress. The contact itself was important too, it had to be a gentle caress, like a reward, anything else would get a natural fear reaction.

Moving closer, Gena came down to one knee and lightly ran her hand through Shane's hair, watching his reaction closely. His reaction was far beyond anything she had expected. Sure, he started rumbling in the back of his throat and allowed her hand to go wherever she wished but he was leaning forward, desperate for more. The only time a man would lean towards a Mistress as she touched him was when he had never been granted the caring touch from a Mistress before.
'Shane, have you ever had a Mistress before?' she asked, bringing her other hand up to rub his shoulder lightly.
'No, Mistress. You are my first Mistress.' he replied, tense under her hands but she knew that wouldn't last long. 'Have I displeased you, Mistress?'
'No, not at all Shane. I am surprised but not displeased.' she soothed, changing her plans now that she knew she had at least one virgin slave to think about.

Releasing Shane and trying not to think about the heartfelt whimper he gave, she turned to the other two new slaves, checking them over and wondering just how badly she'd been screwed over by the slavers. There was only one way to know for certain though. These two were a special case, it was obvious they loved each other but there was no way to know how her touch might change things. She'd never dealt with slaves this closely linked before.

Reaching out to both of them at once, thick fingers gliding through their hair, she got much the same reaction from them as from Shane. But where as Shane leant into her completely, these two used each other for support and pushed into her hands, two bodies but one mind. Shifting her hands, Gena got the pair sitting up straight, their faces to the ceiling as she continued bestowing light touches over their shoulders. Now she could see the marks clearly and she knew she was in for some interesting times with these two. Standing out from their skin, all rough edges and shaky lines, they bore the marks of a unified partnership, markings that no one could deny.
'You have never had a Mistress before, have you?' she asked, guiding the pair back down again.
'No Mistress.' Aloysius replied, leaning into the soft touch against his back.
'So who gave you the knots?' she requested, careful of their injuries as she continued to touch them.
'We did it ourselves, not long after the night the sky burned, Mistress.' Rufus replied, flinching when she hit a particularly sore spot. 'We hoped it would keep us together, Mistress.'
'Obvious forgeries like these will not protect you. When you have had time to settle in a little more, I will redo them so there can be no mistake about your union.' Gena offered, starting to really understand how to keep these three from straying.
'Thank you, Mistress.' both replied, dropping their faces to the floor in thanks.

Returning to her chair and gazing at the three new slaves as they resettled and relaxed again, Gena knew that she was going to be busy calming these three and settling them into their routines. They were truly wild, trained by force and uncertain of how to react to so many things. It would take time to ease their concerns about abandonment and truly make them feel like they belonged here. To her, the time spent would be worth it to have her friends close to hand.
'Go back to your room and rest, tomorrow you will start to learn your places. Jean-Claude, go to the second kitchen and make sure these three are fed properly, they look half starved. You four may go, you stay Buck.' Gena directed, coming up with a plan that would hopefully enforce her dominance and still make sure these three were comfortable.

~#~#~#~#~

Filing into the room Jean-Claude indicated as theirs, the three newest slaves at the Newman Compound looked around slowly, standing just inside the doorway as their new reality came crashing down on them. Until now they could deny that they were house slaves but seeing their accommodations had sealed it in their minds.

There wasn't much to see really, brick walls with small openings for windows, a wooden door that had half the boards missing, dirt floor and three thin old mattresses covered with moth-eaten blankets and rough cloth bags stuffed with reeds for their beds. Above their heads, there was a single bare bulb hanging from a chain but there was no sign of the switch to turn it on.

Releasing Aloysius' hand, Rufus stepped further into the room and grabbed one of the pitiful mattresses, shoving it across to butt up against another to create a space that would suit two. Untucking the two blankets, he spread them over the double mattress, tucking in the edges and trying to make the best of the bad situation.

Padding over and settling on the single bed, Shane sighed and rubbed at his wrist cuffs, not used to the sweaty sensation that was building under them. He couldn't begrudge Aloysius and Rufus their union, they were obviously a good match but he wished he had someone to love him and keep him warm when the nights were cold.

Heads coming up when Buck entered their room, Aloysius and Rufus both looked incredibly guilty, moving apart and looking down at the larger sleeping space Rufus had put together. Smiling softly, Buck padded over and draped a second blanket around Shane's shoulders before taking a seat on the floor between the two beds.
'you won't get in trouble for making the double bed, Mistress Gena has already had a notice put up out here that you the are to be left alone and that you two are permitted to create a place for two in your room. She wants you to be comfortable, she's aware that you are virgin flesh and will treat you accordingly.' Buck grinned, relaxing back against the wall and looking around at his friends.
'I didn't think she'd remember us.' Aloysius admitted, looking up at Rufus sadly. 'I thought we'd been forgotten about.'
'Mistress Gena has been searching for those she knew before, trying to rebuild the family she's known for so long. She had almost given up hope of finding Shane again; finding you two was an added bonus. Most of the slaves she has are marked with the M brand, she takes pride in being one of only a handful of women on the planet that can control so many men with military backgrounds.' Buck explained, absently rubbing his own M brand.
'Isn't she concerned someone might try and do her harm?' Rufus asked, guiding Aloysius into his lap and holding tight.
'A few have tried but none get close. Jean-Claude takes his duties seriously. At nights, he sleeps outside her room, constantly vigilant for anyone that might do her harm. Those that do try and harm her are usually found dead on the ground below her room in the morning.' Buck smirked, enjoying the timid laughter from his friends.

Looking up again when Jean-Claude entered, Shane sat up a little more as he was handed a large bowl filled with steaming stew. Resting the bowl in his lap, he accepted the chunk of stale bread on offer and a fork. Settling back, he waited for Aloysius and Rufus to be given their food before tucking in and eating heartily.
'Here you will get three solid meals a day; you don't have to worry about anyone stealing your food.' Jean-Claude promised, settling on the floor and handing around bottles of water.
'Well, it would be nice to not have to worry about when the next meal is coming.' Rufus agreed, careful not to drip on his uniform.
'Like me, you have been put on the second mess list. Due to our greater stature, we get a little extra in our daily rations.' Jean-Claude added, brushing a bit of muck off his wrist cuffs lightly. 'What you do with it is your own business but I believe the Mistress will have you trained as a runner.'
'I hope not. I am strong but I cannot run anymore, not with the free and easy gait needed to pull a rickshaw for our Mistress.' Rufus sighed, dropping his gaze sadly. 'It takes all my willpower simply to avoid limping with this knee.'
'What happened?' Buck asked, his tone encouraging but he didn't want Rufus to think he had no choice but to tell his story.
'When we were captured while scavenging for food, I tried to escape but I tripped and fell into one of the refuse pits out on the far side of the city. Just my luck, I landed in a pile of broken glass, tore my knees to pieces and severed one of the tendons on a particularly large piece. I was given basic treatment but the slavers didn't care about the damaged tendon. I could still stand and walk, that's all they cared about. It aches constantly and I'm left struggling but such is life for a slave.' Rufus explained, shifting a little to reveal the ugly scar on the outside of his left knee.
'It's not likely the Mistress knows this. Slavers don't tend to bother about writing those sorts of things on your file card. Tomorrow, play it up a little, let her see that you are hurt and she will give you a place where you won't have to worry about straining your knee.' Jean-Claude guided, turning his attention to Shane. 'You must eat, Shane. You have been through much, eat and get your strength back. Mistress Gena will be expecting you to do a full day tomorrow; there won't be much time for you to rest.'
'That's the thing, Jean-Claude, I don't want anymore. After so long living on meagre rations of what I could steal, I simply can't eat like I used to anymore. I'll probably never recover from that.' Shane shrugged, managing another mouthful but it was easy to see he just wasn't interested.
'Try and eat just a little more at each meal. It'll be tough and you won't want to but one extra mouthful at each meal will help.' Aloysius offered, paying more attention to the stew than the bread in an attempt to get as many essential nutrients as possible.

~#~#~#~#~

Getting to their feet when a chime rang out through the house slave barracks, Buck and Jean-Claude got to their feet and headed towards the door.
'Five minutes to lights out, I suggest you go take a piss if you need and get tucked up in bed. Its pitch dark out here until dawn. You'll soon learn your way around in the dark but for now, try to avoid midnight wanderings.' Buck grinned, pausing in the doorway.
'Try and get a good night of sleep, tomorrow will be hard for you. I have no doubt you will find your places, even if you don't think it is a good fit at the start. Trust in our Mistress, she knows these things.' Jean-Claude added, smiling softly at his friends, new and old. 'Rufus do not be afraid of playing up your injury. You are not the first to come here with an untreated injury that limits abilities. Mistress Gena will take care of you.'
'You'd better get moving Jean-Claude or you'll be in big trouble.' Buck warned, nudging the bigger man towards the connecting corridor.
'Good night my friends, I will see you in the morning.' Jean-Claude nodded, pushing off the wall and running back towards the main house.
'Don't worry about sleeping in either. You can't ignore the call to get up, no matter how exhausted you are.' Buck finished, stepping out into the corridor. 'Sleep well.'

Curling up under his blankets, Shane struggled to find a comfortable position in all his uniform but eventually he found a position that didn't cause pressure on his back or make the buckles on his uniform dig in uncomfortably. Even wrapped up in two of the thin blankets, he still felt exposed and shivered with cold.

On the other side of the small room, Aloysius and Rufus are settled, holding tight to each other under the blankets. Shane is struck by how peaceful they seem, Aloysius relaxing back into Rufus' strength, glasses held firmly in his hand as he drifts. They've changed so much since the night the sky burned, Aloysius isn't the leader anymore and it shows. Whatever happened between day they escaped and the evening they found Shane, it had torn Aloysius apart inside and he would never be the same again.
'If you get too cold Shane, you can squeeze in with us. There's room for you if you want.' Rufus offered, lifting his head as the lights went out.
'Are you sure?' Shane asked, hunching up under his blankets a bit more.
'It's only fair. There's no reason why you should freeze if there's a warm spot available for you.' Aloysius replied, shifting in the darkness.

Shane didn't need to be asked twice. Scrambling out from under his paltry blankets, he padded across the room and snuggled in under the blankets beside Aloysius, getting as close as he could without making contact.
'You don't have to be so timid, Shane. We won't hurt you.' Aloysius soothed, a strong hand curling around Shane's hip. 'Come on, it's okay.'
'Not too close, my back really hurts.' Shane whispered, wriggling over and settling again, feeling the natural warmth of Aloysius right there behind him.
'You can snuggle in here every night if you want, Shane.' Rufus added, finding his side in the dark.
'Thank you.' Shane grinned, eyes closing closed as he relaxed. 'If you want some private time though, just tell me and I'll move out again.'
'We'll work up to that.' Aloysius muttered, coaxing Shane to shuffle over another couple of inches.
'Shh, get some sleep you two. Tomorrow the real pain starts.' Rufus whispered, fingers absently rubbing Shane's hip.

Listening to the snoring coming from the other rooms out here, Shane found a hint of a smile and settled closer to his friends, grateful that he had someone to care about him. It wasn't as good as what Aloysius and Rufus shared but knowing he was welcome to curl up with them whenever he was cold was a comforting thought. For now he was safe and he hadn't felt that way for years. Not since that night when the sky burned.